“What about “The Lake of Fire”?
Question: As I understand it, the Bible says there will be two resurrections: one of the saved and the other of the lost. The latter stand before God in their physical resurrected bodies and are cast into a place of torment called “the lake of fire” (Revelation:20:15). What is the point of eternally tormenting the lost?
Response: The Bible describes the damned who stand before God at the Great White Throne judgment and are cast into the lake of fire in these terms: “I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God…and the dead were judged…according to their works” (Revelation:20:12). Although their appearance before God is said to be a “resurrection of damnation” (John:5:29), it seems clear that they do not stand before God in physical bodies which have been reconstituted from their decayed and consumed remains. The fact that they are twice referred to as “dead” would seem to indicate rather that they are disembodied spirits.
In fact, the Bible tells us that the pain suffered by the damned has nothing to do with bodies and nerves. That Christ’s description of the rich man and the beggar, the one in hell and the other in paradise, is no mere parable is evident from the fact that the beggar’s name is given to us, so must have been a real person. Note Christ’s words:
The rich man also died and was buried; and he hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torment…and cried…send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame (Luke:16:22-24).
While the words “eyes” and “tongue” and flame” are mentioned and the torment of thirst for water is implied, these words clearly have another meaning than that which is attached to them in this life. The physical bodies of both the rich man and Lazarus were corrupting in the grave. Therefore the eyes, tongue, finger, and flame referred to could not be physical. If the “flame” that tormented the rich man in hell was not physical, then we have reason to believe that the flame in the lake of fire is not physical either.
Furthermore, we are clearly told that the lake of fire was “prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew:25:41). Physical fire has no effect upon spirit beings. Whatever fire this is must be a special kind of fire for spirits, no doubt far more horrible than physical fire. Indeed, if the damned are in physical bodies and the flames are physical, then it would necessitate a continual, instant-by-instant reconstitution of their burning flesh in order for them to be tormented.
That kind of physical torment hardly seems to be a proper punishment. It makes more sense both logically and biblically for the torment to arise from the burning thirst for God that separation from Him would create, together with the exquisite pain of remorse. The physical torment of incredibly hot fire burning continually reconstituted flesh would be so terrible that it would allow no contemplation of past wrongs, for no remorse, for no regret for having rejected the salvation God offered. There would be no moral dimension to such torment; it would be simply physical and so overwhelming as to allow for no thought or regret. That hardly seems to fit the crime of rebellion and rejection.